Victor Madeira: ‘Britannia and the Bear: Anglo-Russian Intelligence Wars’

Decades before the Berlin Wall went up, a Cold War had already begun raging.  But for Bolshevik Russia, Great Britain – not America – was the enemy.  Victor Madeira tells a story that has been hidden away for nearly a century.  Drawing on over sixty Russian, British and French archival collections, he offers a compelling new narrative about how two great powers of the time did battle, both openly and in the shadows.

By exploring British and Russian mind-sets of the era, Victor Madeira traces links between wartime social unrest, growing trade unionism in the police and the military, and Moscow’s subsequent infiltration of Whitehall.  As early as 1920, Cabinet ministers were told that Bolshevik intelligence wanted to recruit university students from prominent families destined for government, professional and intellectual circles.  Yet despite these early warnings, men such as the Cambridge Five slipped the security net fifteen years after the alarm was raised.  He tells the story of Russian espionage in Britain in the critical interwar years and reveals how the British Government identified crucial lessons but failed to learn many of them.  There are lessons to be learned from the Cold War but the big question is – will they be learnt?  Britain’s self-delusion about potential commercial opportunities with the USSR was a defining feature of bilateral relations from 1917 to 1991, and one that continues to colour Anglo-Russian ties to this day.


Victor Madeira holds a PhD from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, in intelligence and counter-terrorism against the Soviets.  'Britannia and the Bear', described by the Spectator as 'excellent...pioneering', is his first book.

Tickets for this talk at £7 (£5 for GB Russia members) are only available by email to: membership@gbrussia.org